- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 15, 2004

Former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards used to say, “They’d have to catch me taking money under the table or find me on top of a chubby boy to get what they’re after.” What they were after was a jail term for the charming rogue and they got it. The cause was money, not some chubby boy.

Now we have in James McGreevey, the not-resigning-soon-enough governor of New Jersey, the confession of a homosexual extramarital affair and a host of corruption charges involving a number of people who have given money to his campaign. That pretty much fulfills Mr. Edwards’ formula for losing a public office as the result of what we shall gently call inappropriate behavior.

The fact is, New Jersey has been poorly served by a succession of governors starting with Jim Florio, a Democrat who raised taxes and got thrown out in favor of Christie Whitman, a Republican who further ran up state indebtedness with bonding schemes and such. When she stepped aside early as President Bush’s choice to run the Environmental Protection Agency, the state got an interim governor, Donald T. DiFrancesco, forced to step aside under the shadow of wrongdoing. The voters eventually chose Mr. McGreevey over Bret Schundler, a Republican who wanted to give the taxpayers a break.

In the meantime, the Democrats had forced former Sen. Robert Torricelli to step aside from running for re-election due to allegations of corrupt behavior and replaced him barely weeks before the last election with former Sen. Frank Lautenberg. This shameful political heist was blessed by the New Jerey Supreme Court and confirmed by the voters.

Former Gov. Whitman was invited to leave the Cabinet when it became apparent to everyone she had no clue whatever about the environment. I often tell out-of-state friends that, in New Jersey, we don’t trust any air we can’t see.

The duplicity, corruption, and just outright stupidity this brief recounting of our chosen leaders (I am a lifelong resident of New Jersey) is offered to indicate something is terribly wrong with voters who have demonstrated a virtual death wish so far as any sensible governance of the state is concerned.

Sadly, aside from the personal embarrassment of the governor and whatever assessment New Jerseyeans make of this latest debacle, the real damage he has done the state is to sign, just days ago, a bill that puts aside 450,000 acres of a northern New Jersey area called “the Highlands” from any further development. In doing so, he robbed every home and property owner of its value because, in the name of protecting the environment, he rendered that property worthless. No new homes or apartments will be built, nor will any other kind of development. Welcome to the People’s Republic of New Jersey.

Add to this the appalling indebtedness of New Jersey and the impossibly high property taxes, and “New Jersey and you. Perfect together” no longer applies to anyone living here. The Garden State is, for all practical purposes, in the poorhouse. We can thank the succession of governors and the most profligate, for-sale-to-the-highest-bidder legislature in the nation.

Therefore, if you think your state the worst-run in the nation (other than pre-Schwartzenegger California), I invite you to measure it against New Jersey and will caution that there is no defending New Jersey anymore.

Alan Caruba writes “Warning Signs,” a weekly commentary posted on the Web site of The National Anxiety Center.

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